Parenting at work
Text and photos by Gina Mission

Girlie Duldulao (partially hidden) turns her child Ryan over to caregiver Emilia Naraja at the PIA Arugaan creche.

he day starts at five in the morning for the Duldulao family. The two older kids, Eryn Gail, and Camille Ann, aged 8 and 6, respectively, leave the house for school at six. Mother Girlie prepares the youngest child, eight-month-old Ryan Gabriel, for "home." Father Eric, on the other hand, prepares the things that he and his wife need for work.

___By seven in the morning, both spouses’ "working day" - literally and figuratively - starts. For Ryan, it’s another wonderful day.

___Eric and Girlie are just two of the parent employees at the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) who avail of the services of Arugaan’s PIA creche. Ryan is one of Arugaan’s "students."

___Arugaan is an NGO which serves as a support system for working parents who want to work, breastfeed, and take care of the their babies at the same time. For this purpose, it has been Arguaan’s mission to create or help create a child-friendly center for babies and toddlers. "A creche that provides a ten-hour daycare service and program for young children," is how Arugaan Executive Director Innes Fernandez aptly describes it.

___A creche could be established, according to Innes, through a joint agreement by both employer and employees, with the assistance of Arugaan. The company provides the venue for the creche and the necessary equipment. "It is very important that employers understand how the creche could make their employees efficient at work, how tardiness could be minimized with it and the economic implications of these things to the company," Innes stresses.

___Inaugurated last January 18, the PIA creche offers a ten-hour daycare for babies and toddlers ages two months to two years. Open from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., it is located at the 3rd floor of the PIA building at Visayas Avenue near Elliptical Circle. Children of PIA employees are charged P600 while those of non-PIA employees pay P2,000 per month. Except for the food, parents provide for the necessary toiletries and other things their kids need.

___The idea, according to Arugaan, is to allow working parents to bring their kids to work without having to be delinquent employees. "Parents go to work and leave their babies in our care," explains Arugaan Deputy Director Nona Castillo. "When their workday is done, they just pick up their babies," she adds.

___"I can go about my work and take a peek at the creche during break times or as frequently as I want to," reveals Girlie. "It’s a relieving experience, to not worry about your kid being left to a baby sitter the whole day. Who knows what the yaya will do or teach my Ryan if I’m not around," she asks.

___When Ryan is sick, Girlie continues, she doesn’t have to be absent from work. "I know that my son is in good hands." What is even surprising, according to her, is that unlike her two older children, Ryan hardly gets sick. "It be the kind of food they give here and the emotional stability that he experiences while under the care of ‘experts’ plus the fun that he must be having with the other kids," she adds. Needless to say, Ryan, says Girlie, is more socially mature than his two siblings were at his age.

___The creche features the wholistic concept of care and nutrition. Natural, healthy foods suited for young digestive systems are given every one to two hours. Breastfeeding counseling is provided. Non-stop custodial care, child healthcare, and early childhood education with focus on earth-friendly activities are given by expert educators, trained caregivers and health personnel.

___"Our creche provides breastfeeding through wet nursing for infants. Breastmilk is also available for toddlers through cup feeding. Indigenous healing foods are given for all children every two hours," describes Nona Castillo, Arugaan’s Deputy Director. "We provide learn and play through early childhood education with emphasis on earth-friendly activities. Our traditional therapists provide herbal medicine and herbal oil massage to children enrollees as part of the healthcare program," she adds.

Arugaan caregivers lead their wards in a round of Tagalog nursery rhymes.

___PIA Information Officer III Rolly del Mundo has some more "creche" stories to tell. Like any other parent, he wants the best for his only child, 11-month old Reyner Redmond. And because he and his wife believe that Reyner’s yaya could not possibly offer him the same learning activities he gets at the creche, Rolly made sure that his son is enrolled there.

___"People wonder why I enrolled him at the creche when he already has a yaya. It’s a matter of priority. I want my son to be able to interact socially with other kids. I think it’s very important for kids to be with their peers and have friends so they’ll grow up independent. If I leave him the whole day with his yaya, I’m sure he wouldn’t have this kind of opportunity," Rolly says.

___What’s more, adds Rolly, the creche offers learning activities with "nationalistic" orientation. "They sing Tagalog songs and nursery rhymes instead of English ones. They are taught Filipino values," he adds. While he admits having nothing against teaching kids the English language, he believes that kids should learn their mother tongue first.

___Since Mrs. Del Mundo works in Makati, Rolly and Reyner drive her to office everyday at six in the morning. From there, both father and son drive back to PIA. In the car, Rolly and Reyner sing nursery rhymes or tell stories. By eight, Rolly is in his office and Reyner, at the creche. Like Girlie and Eric, Rolly visits his son as often as he can.

___"It’s like parenting the kid yourself," says Girlie of her feeling every time she drops by the creche. "Sometimes I’d even participate in their activities if I have the time." She is thrilled that Ryan gets very excited when he sees her.

___"When Ryan sees me and his Dad dressing up in the morning, he nags us to dress him, too. He knows his schedule and would even want to go to the creche on weekends," says Girlie.

___Seeing the positive results the creche has been able to achieve, Nona could only hope more offices, private or government, would realize that establishing a creche in the workplace is a wise investment, and that more parents would understand - like the Duldulao’s and the del Mundo’s - how beneficial this type of setup can be to their children.

CyberDyaryo | 1999.04.08